Everything is moving to the cloud and hotels are no exception. Read on!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised?
Ric Leutwyler: I was born in Austin, Texas. I have moved 18 times in my life and career in the US. I have a double degree in both Marketing and Human Resources as I had interest in both areas. I started my career with AT&T before the divestiture. It was one of the largest companies in the world. I was involved with different parts of the organization during my time there. I think I was in eight different roles in eight and a half years.
Then, I actually made quite an unusual shift. There was a company that was just getting started in the hospitality industry and I had worked with them. They asked me to join them and I did. It was an interesting shift because I actually took a pay cut but I got lot more responsibility, which was what made it interesting. That company is what people think of today as Wyndham Worldwide, which was a time-sharing and hotel business. At one point, we were a $22 billion corporation. I worked with them for a little over 10 years.
Then I shifted from that to Best Western, which is headquartered here in Phoenix, Arizona where I am now. That was a lot driven by my desire to be back in this part of the world. It’s where my kids have grown up and had real roots. We wanted to come back to a place that felt like home. When you’ve moved 18 times, it’s not easy to find a place that feels like that. I spent six years there doing a lot of different things for marketing and operations.
Then a friend of mine was taking over a hospitality and technology business. I became the President of Utell Hotels and Resorts and then subsequently the Chief Operating Officer of Pegasus Solutions. I was there for a few years. It was a global business. We had 18 offices around the world and serving customers around the world, which was really fantastic. I loved not only working with the different customers, but also getting to experience the nuances of culture, both from a personal and business standpoint. That was really a great experience.
Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking about?
Ric Leutwyler: 2011. I was wrapping up my three years at Pegasus. I took a year away from corporate world to startup a philanthropic-focused business called Philanthropegie dedicated to helping individuals, organizations like SkyTouch, and non-profits find resources that can help them achieve their philanthropic goals. I did that for about a year knowing that at some point, I’d have to get back to making money because I just spent too much of it.